Sri Lanka ruling party set for local election win

COLOMBO, March 30, 2014 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s ruling party was headed for victory in local elections but with smaller than expected margins in a crucial mid-term test for President Mahinda Rajapakse, early results showed Sunday. The ruling party had tried to turn Saturday’s vote into a referendum on a UN Human Rights Council’s resolution last week to set up a war crimes probe into the island, a move that angered the Rajapakse government.

The party asked voters to send a strong message to the UN that ordinary Sri Lankans were against an international probe into allegations up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the island’s war.

The UNHRC adopted the US-led resolution Thursday censuring Colombo and calling for the investigation into the final seven years of the island’s Tamil separatist war between 1972 and 2009.

The ruling party was routed at a similar provincial council election in the island’s former war zone in September when the country’s main ethnic Tamil minority party, the Tamil National Alliance, swept the vote. The president campaigned for polls held Saturday for southern and western provincial councils, both in the ethnic majority Sinhalese heartland, which account for more than a third